Archive for March 2009

The Kessel NYPA Watch, March 29, 2009 – By George J. Marlin

March 29, 2009

Richie Kessel actually traveled to upstate New York to hold a press conference on March 24, 2009. Why did he leave his natural habitat, Long Island? Because he did not want Long Island media recording him publicly eating crow and because upstate customers were poised to call for his ouster.

After receiving public lashings from Governor David Paterson (D), Congressman Brian Higgins (D), Erie County Executive Chris Collins (R), Senator George Maziarz (R) and scores of other elected officials, for announcing a 12 ½ % NYPA electrical rate increase, a humiliated and chastened Kessel postponed the rate increase.

A review of Kessel’s words and deeds is revealing:

In February 2009, Kessel gave away $476 million of surplus NYPA money to fund New York State’s operating deficit. The Niagara Gazette reported that Kessel said “the move will not result in layoffs on rate hikes for consumers.” The Niagara Gazette also revealed that as Kessel was agreeing to hand over NYPA money to Governor Paterson (which the state is not legally required to ever pay back), NYPA was applying to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to increase customer electrical rates by 12 ½ %. Richie: Were you deceiving the public?

When confronted with these inconsistencies, Kessel compounded them saying that NYPA money “given to the state had nothing to do with a rate increase. The money could not have been used to lower rates.” But Governor Paterson said “The [NYPA] money was diverted from some projects that never came to fruition.” If $476 million in defunct NYPA projects could be handed over to the state why couldn’t it be handed over to NYPA ratepayers or used to pay down debt and lower rates? Richie: Were you deceiving the public?

When the proposed NYPA rate increase was revealed, Kessel said it was mandated by state law. But when the heat was on, Kessel managed to find an excuse to cancel the “required” rate increase on March 24. He said that NYPA could sell its hydropower for less than cost for an undetermined interim period. Richie: Were you deceiving the public?

When asked by The Buffalo News editorial board and others if the NYPA rate freeze decision was made due to the public backlash and pressure from politicians, Kessel answered “No.” But when asked the same question by the Niagara Gazette, Kessel said, “Did the public pressure make a difference? I think it did and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.” Which is it Richie?

Richie Kessel is unfit to be CEO of the nation’s largest state-owned electric utility. Fortunately, for the people of New York, Kessel can be removed from office at NYPA’s annual trustees meeting this Tuesday, March 31, 2009. According to Article IV Section 2 of NYPA By-laws, the President and CEO must be reappointed at the annual trustees meeting. By-laws Article III-Section 5 reads:

At all Trustees’ meetings, the presence of four Trustees shall be necessary to constitute a quorum and shall be sufficient for the transaction of business. Any act shall be sufficient for the transaction of business if such four Trustees are in agreement and any act of such four Trustees present at a meeting and which constitutes a quorum shall be an act of the Trustees.

This means that yea votes of 4 trustees are required for election of NYPA’s President. At this time there are five NYPA trustees and two vacancies. Kessel must receive four of the five votes if he is to be elected President. (Last fall the trustee vote for Kessel was four to two in his favor.) If the two upstate Trustees vote “No,” the Kessel-NYPA nightmare will end.

Finally, in talking with The Buffalo News editorial board on the record last week, Kessel made a fundamental mistake that any intern with business experience or anyone who has spent any time attracting businesses would avoid. Kessel mentioned Camden Wire and Goya as businesses that might leave the State and also threw in public mini-mill steel manufacturer, Nucor, as another that was looking for aid. Apart from State law and regulation that require that confidential information like that not be cavalierly thrown into the public square, an ounce of common sense would suggest that these businesses and their employees and customers would prefer that they not be discussed in public by a Long Island-based pol in on-the-record meetings.

DiNapoli says more debt is the answer – By George J. Marlin

March 26, 2009

This commentary I wrote, Marlin: DiNapoli says more debt is the answer, appears in the March 25, 2009 Long Island Business News.

The Richie Kessel NYPA Watch, March 24, 2009 – By George J. Marlin

March 24, 2009

An Open Letter to Governor Paterson regarding ending
the Kessel Madness

Governor Paterson expressed the outrage of the State in his extraordinary “Open Letter” to Richie Kessel, NYPA CEO, yesterday.  In the short, curt letter addressed to “Mr. Kessel”, Paterson urgently asked Richie and NYPA to reconsider its proposed rate increase and to forego proposed bonuses in the amount of approximately $3.4 million.

In making his request, the Governor noted that we are living through a “time of economic hardship and shared sacrifice” and that Kessel’s rate increase could have a negative impact on businesses and nearly 2.5 million New Yorkers and that in today’s economic climate it was “inappropriate” to propose incentive compensation for any NYPA employees.

Governor Paterson’s request was right and timely and his brusque tone appropriate for one of the laggards of the Paterson Administration.  In light of Kessel’s embarrassing record during the last six months catalogued in these pages and those of The Buffalo News, Newsday, Niagara Gazette and Watertown Daily Times, it is time for the Governor to take the next step and take advantage of the propitious opportunity presented by NYPA’s March 31 Board meeting.

At the meeting, the agenda is expected to include the appointment of Kessel as NYPA CEO.  Street Corner Conservative calls on Governor Paterson to request that the NYPA Board, which voted to elect Kessel in September 2008 by a 4-2 vote, not act on his appointment.

The Governor has at least three options:

  • First, end the embarrassment and preclude further Kessel shenanigans by firing Kessel now;
  • Second, request that the NYPA Board not act on the Kessel reappointment at the March 31 Board meeting and leave Kessel in place as a wounded and weakened lame duck who will be afraid to hire more Long Island campaign staff, increase rates, enhance subsidies to Long Island at the expense of upstate and otherwise damage the Administration with upstate voters; and
  • Third, allow Kessel to do the right thing and resign although LIPA observers will remember that Kessel resisted to the end when former Governor Spitzer fired him in the early months of his term.

The Richie Kessel NYPA Watch, March 22, 2009 – By George J. Marlin

March 22, 2009

Richie Kessel continues to stonewall Street Corner Conservative’s Freedom of Information Request for Kessel’s “schedule and/or calendar kept and compiled on a daily basis” from September 24, 2008 through and including February 13, 2009. To release this information would be very easy. Street Corner Conservative has been informed that Kessel keeps his calendar on a “At a Glance” monthly desk pad that is 22” by 17”. Three such calendars are kept: one for his secretary, one for Kessel and one for Kessel’s home. To comply with the FOIL request would entail making copies of 5 pages of his 2008-2009 monthly calendar desk pad.

Kessel refuses to release the 5 pages because he knows it would reveal that he spends most of his time on Long Island pursuing his personal political agenda. Just last Thursday, March 19, Kessel held another NYPA press conference on Long Island, this one at West Babylon. Long Island’s load constitutes just 2% of NYPA’s electrical power, but Kessel spends 98% of his time on Long Island.

Richie Kessel has hired another Long Island politico to serve as his Special Advisor at NYPA. According to Celeste Hadrick of Newsday, Fran Evans, who has no experience in the electrical power field, worked for Nassau County Legislator Judy Jacobs when she was Presiding Officer and as Huntington’s public information officer. She started on the NYPA Payroll on February 4. According to Map Quest, Fran Evans daily commute from her home in Huntington is nearly 100 miles and takes 2 hours and 20 minutes roundtrip without traffic and weather. NYPA Employees should keep track of Evans attendance record at the NYPA White Plains headquarters. One wonders whether Richie Kessel is assembling a team to run NYPA or a campaign team for Nassau County Executive courtesy of upstate electric customers.

At NYPA’s March 19 Rate Increase hearing in Albany (since it was not held on Long Island Kessel did not attend), Senator George Maziarz of Niagara County testified that Richie Kessel is a liar and a cheat:

“… you have the audacity to steal power from St. Lawrence, and to a lesser extent Niagara, and send it down to the Brookhaven Lab on Long Island? To a federal government facility? You can’t do our projects, but you magically find power to give to Mr. Kessel’s Long Island friends? Disgraceful.

“I called you liars to begin with and now I will call you thieves, robbing Upstate in the middle of the night to make yourselves the heroes of the Paterson Administration and Long Island.

“I call on NYPA to reject this electric rate increase – again, really this hidden tax – on Upstate electricity customers. And I call on Governor Paterson to take a look at how Upstate is having its natural resources pillaged to the benefit of other regions of the state while our economy withers on the vine.

“We’ve been lied to. We’ve been cheated. And we’ve had enough.”

Street Corner Conservative agrees with Senator Maziarz’s analysis. In the near future, Street Corner Conservative will review Democratic Congressman Brian Higgins’ demands to Governor Paterson and Richie Kessel that Richie’s NYPA abuses stop. So, the outrage against Richie Kessel’s abuses are bipartisan and growing.

The Richie Kessel NYPA Watch, March 15, 2009 – By George J. Marlin

March 15, 2009

On February 17, 2009, Street Corner Conservative filed a Freedom of Information Request with NYPA to receive, among other things, Richie Kessel’s “schedule and/or calendar kept and compiled on a daily basis” from September 23, 2008 through and including February 13, 2009.

Mary Jean Frank, NYPA’s Associate Corporate Secretary, replied to the request on February 24, 2009 and said NYPA “will advise you whether your request will be granted on or about March 10, 2009.”

On March 10, 2009, Ms. Frank e-mailed this excuse: “Because of the potential number of records that may be responsive to the remainder of your request, Authority staff will need an additional period of time to identify, locate, retrieve and review any such responsive records and will contact you on or about May 6, 2009 with the status of your request.”

WHAT NONSENSE! To e-mail Richie Kessel’s daily calendar for his first four months in office should take under 5 minutes.

Richie Kessel, who purports to be a transparent reformer, obviously is stonewalling the FOIL request for his calendar. That’s because he spends very little time in the White Plains office or upstate on NYPA business. He is too busy pursuing his personal political agenda on Long Island. NYPA employees claim he doesn’t even show up at the White Plains office to pick up his pay stub.

Richie Kessel recently told Dan Janison of Newsday (March 19, 2009), “Most of the time I’m upstate. I’m on Long Island sometimes because of energy projects that impact Long Island…. But a preponderance of my time and effort are aimed at upstate.”

Which is it Richie: Do you spend most of your time upstate or spend most of your time on Long Island thinking about upstate?

Richie Kessel quit hiding behind your corporate secretary. Be a man and release your calendar.

Street Corner Conservative wants to thank the many dedicated and hard working NYPA employees who have provided information concerning their absentee CEO, Richie Kessel.